Open Journal of Modern Linguistics
Vol.08 No.04(2018), Article ID:86163,16 pages

A Comparative Analysis of the Two Different Framing Strategies of Brexit: Exemplified by the Speeches of David Cameron and Theresa May

Kaiye Yang

Department of Foreign Languages, Nanjing Normal University Zhongbei College, Nanjing, China

Copyright © 2018 by author and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY 4.0).

Received: June 11, 2018; Accepted: July 21, 2018; Published: July 24, 2018


Taking as its data of the two speeches by David Cameron and Theresa May, this paper summarizes different frames in order to generalize the strategies towards Brexit. The expressions are classified into the non-metaphorical ones and the metaphorical ones, in order to analyze the surface frames. The former collect the high-frequency words for an insight into the theme, while the latter construct various frames of person, race, building, journey, voyage, business and war. By comparisons, the deep frames can be further discovered that although some frames are shared by two speeches, the strategies vary. David Cameron stuck to fixed model, claiming Brexit a negativity, punishment and calling for group sympathy; while Theresa May adopted growth model, believing Brexit positively beneficial and advocating independence. In this way, this paper will enrich the study of frames to some degree, and help to provide reference for the future fluctuations on the road to Brexit.


Brexit, Frames, Comparison, Fixed Model, Growth Model

1. Introduction

“Brexit” turned up as a new concept in May 20121, eight months before the Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom (the UK) had spread it to the public officially for the first time, announcing that he would be holding a referendum and rethinking the relationship with the European Union (the EU).

After the Brexit referendum came as promised in 2016, a tendency to leave the EU proves to be inevitable with more voters for Leave (51.9% versus 48.1%). The result is far beyond the expectation of David Cameron, and Theresa May was then chosen as the successor to lead the Conservative Party for the next negotiation of Brexit. The great turmoil caused after the referendum led to many comments about the strategies taken by different leaders, and a choice between a “soft” and a “hard” scenario began to be discussed ( Jordan et al., 2016: p. 6-8 ). For lack of consistency in the speeches by the different prime ministers, the future road for Britain seems blurred and can be recognized into many possibilities: a complete Brexit, an incomplete Brexit, and a British model ( He et al., 2016: p. 9 ). In terms of this, a comparative study of the speeches delivered by David Cameron and Theresa May is necessary, so as to see what are the different strategies advocated about Brexit, and how the frames are constructed and contrasted with each other to persuade the public.

2. Theoretical Foundation of Framing Theory

The concept of “frame” as a psychological term was firstly advocated by an American anthropologist Bateson (1955) , who pointed out that frame is a set of messages or meaningful actions. Many studies of frame were further conducted and the concept of frame was defined and redefined for many times from different aspects. Until in 1975, Fillmore applied this term to the linguistic studies, pointing out that “meanings are relativized to scenes”, and then he put forward the idea further from linguistic structures ( Fillmore, 1982: p. 111 ) to cognitive framenet ( Fillmore & Atkins, 1992: p. 75 ).

With the dramatic development of cognitive linguistics, more attention was paid to the application of frame and the interpretation of metaphorical implications ( Fauconnier & Turner, 2002 ), which under the effort of Lakoff has evolved and into another branch, Framing Theory ( Lakoff, 2004 ). It is him that systematically introduced frame into the study of political discourse, and clearly clarified that frames as the mental structures which not only influence the way the reality to be understood, but sometimes create what human beings take to be reality ( Lakoff, 2006: p. 25 ). Moreover, in order to a better reveal the functions of frame, three elements like the actors, the relationship between as well as the scene should be considered.

Apart from the theoretical contribution, Lakoff also provided rich resources for the application. Political discourses have been greatly discussed, especially the debates or the speeches around certain issue, such as tax, education and immigration. Moreover, according to Lakoff’s studies in the Republican Party and the Democratic Party of the United States, both parties tend to choose strategies for the sake of their own interests ( Lakoff, 2008 ). The politicians construct frames through their speeches for a better explanation of their values, and strengthen or adjust the frames to persuade the opponents and attract a wider support of the public.

What deserves attention is that, the frames in some recent studies of political discourse are found to be generally divided as the surface frame and the deep frame. Usually, it is the words that activate the surface frame firstly, and then the deep frame which is most abstract ( Zhang et al., 2014: p. 31 ). Besides, according to the corpus-based analysis of framing metaphorical model of the political president speeches ( Wang & Liang, 2017: p. 28 ), in the analysis of surface frame, non-metaphorical expressions and the metaphorical ones should be separately collected. The former ones relate to the theme of the speech and can directly correspond to the frames by analyzing the words with high frequency; while the construction of metaphorical frames may convey more implicit information beyond the words and have to rely on the analysis of conceptual metaphors contained in the expression.

The process of analyzing conceptual metaphor can date back to the opinion proposed by Lakoff and Johnson (1980: p. 6) that most conceptual thought is metaphorical, and that “the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of largely metaphorical”. These views contribute to a wide application of Conceptual Metaphor Theory, in which conceptual metaphors can be understood as a mapping of correspondences ( Kovecses, 2002: p. 4-6 ) between two conceptual domain: one is known as the target domain which contains the content which is hard to understand, another is the source domain, from which metaphorical expressions can be drawn to understand the target domain. Conceptual metaphors are usually noted in small capitals, thus: target conceptual domain = source conceptual domain. In this study, conceptual metaphor theory will be applied for the identification and classification of metaphors in the construction of both surface and the deep frames of Brexit.

3. Data Collection and Methodology

The two speeches to be analyzed in this paper were chosen for two main reasons. Firstly, both speeches were delivered for the preparing of the approaching election period, which conveyed a great intention to attract voters by clarifying their position. Secondly, both speeches contain the specific decisions or plans which played a role of the guideline for pushing forward Brexit to the next stage (promote the nationwide referendum and promote to bring Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon into effect respectively). The scripts of both were downloaded from network to word document for a further calculation. One is delivered by David Cameron on January 23 in 20132 (with 5694 words), while another is delivered by Theresa May on January 17 in 20163 (with 6461 words).

According to the methods concluded in the corpus-based analysis of American political discourse ( Wang & Liang, 2017 ), surface frames and deep frames can be divided. The surface frames can be constructed by 3 steps. Firstly, the words with different frequency will be collected from the scrips of the two speeches. Among which non-metaphorical expressions can be separated and counted, which is easier for these explicit expressions to directly activate the corresponding frames. For example, the word “safe” can activate the frame of security. Secondly, the metaphorical expressions can be separated and counted. The process of MIP advocated by Prgglejiz (2007) is adopted to recognize metaphors, which requires to read through the full text, and distinguish the meaning of each word from the basic ones which are more specific, closely related to physical movements, clearer, and popular. Then these words can be generalized as different conceptual metaphors, and some of which are based on more specific primary metaphors4. According to the classification of political metaphors generalized by Wen (2014: p. 11-16) , the conceptual metaphors about a nation may include nation is a family, nation is a ship, nation is a person, nation is a body, nation is a machine, and nation is a building. In this study, the metaphorical frames will be constructed on this basis, and enriched to some degree. The deep frame are usually more abstract and can be activated by the surface frames for a further discussion about the differences in the values.

4. The Surface Frames between David Cameron and Theresa May

4.1. The Non-Metaphorical Frames

In the speech of David Cameron, the non-metaphorical expressions are collected as in Table 1. The high frequency of the words (≥5) can activated the frames respectively as followed, they are freedom (12), democracy (10), interests (8), stay (16), unity (10), choice (11), help (8), challenge (8), competitiveness (7). These frames indicate that David Cameron advocated Britain to be a free and democratic country. However, facing the great competition, Britain is believed to seek help from the EU to harvest largest interests and keep unity.

Apart from these words, some negative words like “dark”, “tyranny”, “war” deserve attention for they present a review of history and remind people of the terrifying calamity and the painful sufferings. Similarly, the words like “fallacy”, “disillusionment”, “weigh”, “sensible (sensibility)”, “careful” make people wary of the risk of being misled to the wrong way and call for a more conservative way to deal with the issue of Brexit.

In the speech of Theresa May, the non-metaphorical expressions are also collected. As Table 1 shows, the high frequency of the words (≥5) activated the frames respectively as followed, they are equality (13), interest (21), success (7), freedom (17), globalization (17), comprehensive (5), new (28), change (7), open (7), confident (7), control (13), clear (14), possibility (12), need (7), protect (7), leave (15) and expect (7). It is not difficult to see that Theresa May expected Britain to be more equal, free and global in search of more interests in the world.

Table 1. Vocabulary frequency of non-metaphorical frames of the speeches.

By referring to the words like “clear”, “control”, “leave” and “change” frequently, the highly authoritative tone is revealed, and the determination to get rid of the restrictions from the EU cannot be more clearer. Besides, the frames like “globalization”, “possibility”, “new”, “open” and “expect” expressed eagerness to break the barriers, which also implies that the impatience and boredom at the strict rules.

4.2. Metaphorical Frames

4.2.1. Metaphorical Frames of David Cameron

There are five conceptual metaphors to be generalized. The words like “strength (strong), weak (weaker), close, partner” construct the fist conceptual metaphor that nation is a person. The primary metaphors contains unity is power, membership is friendship. In this way, Britain is compared to a person who has great potential but is still weak at present. The other member states of the EU are also personalized as the friends who may help for the economic growth in the future. As all we know, a friend in need is a friend in deed. Whether the friendship between Britain and the other countries is indestructible shall be measured greatly by their mutual friend―the EU. With this prerequisite, the breakup with the EU is undoubtedly make Britain be accused of being selfish regardless of the distress of the friend, and face more doubts on its integrity. It can be seen clearly from the following sentence.

(1) More of the same will not bring the European Union any closer to its citizens. More of the same will just produce more of the same―less competitiveness, less growth, fewer jobs. And that will make our countries weaker not stronger.

The words like “start, compete (competitive), proud, success (achieve), fail, lead, quickly (fast, faster), slow (late), gap” construct the second conceptual metaphor that relation is a race. The primary metaphors includes nation is a player, revolution is strength, world is playground. As in sentences (2) and (3), Britain were a player while the EU were the only authoritative referee. In order to keep the competition held smoothly, it is necessary for the players to be supervised by the referee and stick to the treaty on equal terms. As a result, compared to Brexit, Cameron advocated a less radical way, that is to promote a inner revolution within the EU. With little interruption or prejudice, the “players” can be more motivated in the fairer competition.

(2) Creating a leaner, less bureaucratic Union, relentlessly focused on helping its member countries to compete.

(3) Europe’s leaders have a duty to hear these concerns. Indeed, we have a duty to act on them. And not just to fix the problems in the Eurozone.

The words like “foundation, shape (build, forge), firm, safeguard, exit, inside” construct the third conceptual metaphor that nation is a building. The primary metaphors include market is foundation, solution is exit, member is brick. For example, in the sentence (4), the Single Market is seen as the solid foundation and the strict security system, while the regulation of the single currency is the potential danger which is approaching in the near future. In this way, Cameron advocated that Britain is better to stay in the building of the EU with few restrictions and keep the usage of the single currency. Only when the foundation is so shifted that the building is going to collapse, can it be a good time for Britain to escape through the exit.

(4) All members of one European Union, whose essential foundation is the Single Market rather than the single currency.

The words like “direction (goal), toward, anchor, ahead (forward, further), way (course, path), destination (end), ticket, dark, back, return” construct the fourth conceptual metaphor that revolution is a journey. The primary metaphors include nation is a traveler, policy is a ticket, unity is vehicle. Just as in sentences (5) to (7), Britain was seen as a traveler who is on the one-direction way to the final destination of freedom and democracy. For Britain, there is no accompany nor a way back to seek security. What’s more, without the comfortable shelter provided by the EU, Britain has to combat the unexpected dangers hid in the dark, which might lead to severe injuries and depression of loneliness and homesickness. As Cameron advocated, the EU should be the last stop and will ensure both the prosperity between EU and the other member states.

(5) the British people to carry on accepting a European settlement over which they have had little choice is a path to ensuring that when the question is finally put―and at some stage it will have to be―it is much more likely that the British people will reject the EU.

(6) If we left the European Union, it would be a one-way ticket, not a return.

(7) For us, the European Union is a means to an end―prosperity, stability, the anchor of freedom and democracy both within Europe and beyond her shores―not an end in itself.

The words like “defeat, fight (against)” construct the final conceptual metaphor that crisis is war. The primary metaphors contains nation is a soldier, opposition is enemy. As the sentences (8) and (9) said, Britain and the EU should not be opponent as an enemy to each other, but the courageous soldiers. They should fight together in the invasion battle of Eurozone crisis, with the common aim, that is, to protect the only treasure―the Single Market from being destroyed.

(8) But I refuse to take such a defeatist attitude―either for Britain or for Europe.

(9) And that is why Britain has been so concerned to promote and defend the Single Market as the Eurozone crisis starts to rewrite the rules on fiscal coordination and banking union.

4.2.2. The Metaphorical Frames of Theresa May

As the following Table 2 shows, there are five conceptual metaphors to be generalized. The words like “ambition (ambitious), strong (stronger, strongest), talent, secure, potential, open, close, tolerant, respected, partner (partnership), membership, allies (alliance), share, create (creation), friend, neighbour, children

Table 2. Vocabulary frequency of metaphorical frames of the speeches.

(grandchildren), self-determination, self-governing, self-interest, embrace (embracing)” construct the first conceptual metaphor that nation is a person. In this metaphor, Theresa May depicted Britain as an unsophisticated teenager who is open-minded, brave and talented enough to search for the great expectations, which is quite different from the previous “awkward” impression left on the Europe. As in the following sentences (10) to (15), the big dream for Britain is to achieve the improvements in self-development, like “self-determination, self-governing, self-interest”, while the other European countries are seen as the friends who have good wills, with whom Britain is ready to embrace, create new relationship and share more interests. Besides, Britain also intends to get the acknowledgement and respect from them. In this way, Brexit is more like a visa for Britain to go out to a wider world, providing access to more resources for travel and study.

(10) I want Britain to be what we have the potential, talent and ambition to be, a great, global trading nation that is respected around the world, and strong, confident, and united at home.

(11) We want to travel to, study in, trade with countries not just in Europe but beyond the borders of our continent.

(12) Britain might at times have been seen as an awkward member state.

However, the EU plays the role of an authoritarian parent, as in the sentence (13), who set the strict rules and intends to punish and discourage for the rebellion of Brexit. The next two sentences show the response of Britain for a change in face of this kind of “spoiling”. After the first reaction of being tolerant, Britain decides to “rediscover” its role for a better development, without little hesitation and struggle.

(13) There are some voices calling for a punitive deal that punishes Britain and discourages other countries from taking the same path.

(14) Britain is an open and tolerant country.

(15) Britain to get out into the world and rediscover its role as a great, global, trading nation.

In this way, Brexit stands for a special phase for Britain to be mature, not only in knowledge and skills, but also in personality and consciousness. Besides, there is another message Theresa May intends to convey by introducing the positive image of a young man, that is, Brexit seemed necessary and encouraged, and it can provoke sympathy and tolerance of the EU and the other European countries from the perspective of a responsible parent.

The words like “prize, failure, success (successful), pace, goal (aim, purpose), lead, fastest, proud” construct the second conceptual metaphor that relation is a race. The primary metaphors contain nation is a player, aim is prize, economy is power and so on. As in the following sentences (16) and (17), Brexit is seen as the final prize in the competition, while Britain and the EU are compared to the players who compete fairly to achieve it. According to Theresa May said in the sentences (18) and (19), it is possible for Britain to speed up as the fastest among the competitors and win a great success. Only the one who spares no effort can have a chance to success, and as a highly qualified player, this aspiration should at anytime not be easily given up.

(16) The kind of agreement I have described today is the economically rational thing that both Britain and the EU should aim for.

(17) Let that be the legacy of our time. The prize towards which we work.

(18) It is clear that the UK needs to increase significantly its trade with the fastest growing export markets in the world.

(19) We face the future together, united by what makes us strong: the bonds that unite us as a people, and our shared interest in the UK being an open, successful trading nation in the future.

The words like “inward (inside), outward (outside), stability, basis (base), build, establish, re-establish, falter, crush” construct the third conceptual metaphor that nation is a building. The primary metaphors include person is brick, policy is access, interest is foundation and so on. As in the following sentences from (20) to (22), Theresa May clearly stated that Brexit is the only way out for Britain, without other shortcuts like “half in” and “half out”. Since the building of Britain can only be expanded on the basis of solid foundation of the mutual interests between Britain and the EU, the more interest shared, the higher the building will be. However, once the package of plans about Brexit to be started, a mass of immigrants have to suffer a great loss in their interests for lack of the welfare to be allocated, and the more people moving in, the heavier burden to the public service. At that time, not even the foundation, the bricks can also not afford the pressure, so as to cause the building shake or even collapse into the ruins.

(20) No partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out.

(21) The United Kingdom will share a land border with the EU, and maintain that Common Travel Area with the Republic of Ireland will be an important priority of the UK in the talks ahead.

(22) Because while controlled immigration can bring great benefits―filling skills shortages, delivering public services, making British businesses the world-beaters they often are―when the numbers get too high, public support for the system falters.

The words like “ahead (forward), toward, beyond, destination, end, border, wider, further, move, step, access, risk (danger, threat), barrier, cliff-edge, path, depth, breadth, across” construct the fourth conceptual metaphor that negotiation is a voyage. The primary metaphors include nation is a ship, leader is captain, immigrants are passengers, cooperation is goods and so on. As in the following sentences (23) to (28), Britain was compared to a luxury cruise ship, which loads a number of immigrants as the passengers, and a great deal of “goods”, including academic communication, research, culture, and the cooperation in the resistance against the offensive affairs like crime or terrorism.

During the long-term negotiation with the EU, the challenges like shipwreck exist as the “cliff-edge” appears on the way of sailing. Besides, the number of immigrants as the passengers will be narrowed and suffer inconvenience due to a more strict security check which only leaves priority to those highly skilled. However, as Theresa May wished, Britain will follow the straight route to Brexit, and strive to achieve more cooperation through harsh competition in the global market.

(23) it is in no one’s interests for there to be a cliff-edge for business or a threat to stability, as we change from our existing relationship to a new partnership with the EU.

(24) One of our great strengths as a nation is the breadth and depth of our academic and scientific communities, backed up by some of the world’s best universities.

(25) I want us to be a truly Global Britain―the best friend and neighbour to our European partners, but a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe too.

(26) We will welcome agreement to continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives, from space exploration to clean energy to medical technologies.

(27) Global Britain will continue to cooperate with its European partners in important areas such as crime, terrorism and foreign affairs.

(28) We will always want immigration, especially high-skilled immigration, we will always want immigration from Europe, and we will always welcome individual migrants as friends.

The words like “profitable, prosperous, assets” construct the last conceptual metaphor that diplomacy is business. The primary metaphors include nation is businessman, resource is asset. As the sentence (29) indicates, Britain as the negotiator is going to bargaining with the EU for the issue of Brexit. However, the agreement is hard to achieve, for the interests are quite different from each other: the EU intends to keep the unity which contributes to the high efficiency of the trades within the member states. Whereas, with the domestic rich resources in either economy, millitary, science or intelligence capabilities, Britain grows into a big one and intends to sign a new contract which allows it to use its own currency instead of Euro, and explore widely with a larger share in the world market.

(29) We will continue to attract the brightest and the best to work or study in Britain, indeed openness to international talent must remain one of this country’s most distinctive assets.

4.3. The Comparisons of the Surface Frames

According to the above non-metaphorical frames, the different focuses can be seen from the comparison of the non-metaphorical frames. Though sharing a mutual wish for Britain to be democratic, equal, and freer, David Cameron creates an atmosphere of sorrow and fear, so as to warn people not to make history repeat itself. Different from discouraging, Theresa May sees Brexit as the awakening of consciousness and evokes the excitement, curiosity and even national pride deep inside people’s mind for this “landmark” in the British history.

By comparing the metaphorical frames, it can be seen that both David Cameron and Theresa May used images of person, race, and building. In the frame of person, little attention is paid by Theresa May to the shortcomings. In her view, Britain is depicted more vividly as an ambitious, strong, talented and tolerant teenager, instead of being “weak” or reliant to the Union. Besides, Brexit is less threatening but the inner requirement of improvement in determination, governance and interests. In the frame of race, compared to the confidence of Theresa May that Britain is going to be the “fastest” and achieve the prize in the competition. David Cameron refers to more negative aspects of Brexit, such as the slow pace and the huge gap with other countries. In the frame of building, David Cameron considered the EU as a building with the sophisticated security system, and presupposed the risks of Brexit by referring to the escape from a collapse. However, in Theresa May’s speech, the necessity to re-establish is strengthened for a better protection of the solid foundation-interests.

Apart from the application of the similar frames, there are also new frames which can be divided into two groups: the frame of journey and voyage, and the frame of war and business. As for the long negotiation with the EU, David Cameron considered it a journey for Britain as a traveler to find the truth, that is, the inseparable relationship with the EU. During his explanation, Brexit is described as a “one-way ticket” with no return to home, which will provoke the uncomfortable feeling of homesickness. In contrast, Theresa May compared Brexit to the destination of the adventurous voyage, which may inspire people to associate the image of Britain with that of a hero. The more barriers to overcome, the more brave the explorer should be. As for the future relationship with the EU and the other European countries, David Cameron described it as a kind of brotherhood in the war. Only with the mutual fight, can Britain survive and the only treasure―the Single Market be prevented from being destroyed. However, Theresa May tended to jumped out of this circle to see Brexit as a new contract which may bring more benefits to be signed.

5. The Deep Frames between David Cameron and Theresa May

According to the studies of psychologist Carol Dweck (2006) , people tend to have one or two sets of beliefs, which provides clues to interpret the values held by different people, and two models which will be applied to the further analysis of deep frames may derive from it. As Table 3 shows, the features of fixed model and growth model can be generalized as followed:

There are three groups of deep frames can be constructed on the basis of the surface frames analyzed before, and the application of Fixed Model and Growth Model can be seen more clearly through the comparisons.

1) Negativity and Positivity

It clearly shows that David Cameron doubts heavily the capability of Britain to

Table 3. The features of fixed model and growth model.

leave the EU, for he believes that Britain as a person will meet many barriers. Firstly, for being not clever enough by nature but “weak”, it is necessary for Britain to get extra support from the EU, in order to ensure a basic security of survival. Secondly, Britain lacks experience of free trade, and it will quickly fall behind when the previous co-operators turn out to be the competitors. Besides, by referring to the terrifying situations, such as the collapse of the building, car accident, shipwreck, tyranny and death in the war, the discouraging tone is strengthened. In contrast, Theresa May shows more confidence by presenting a promising teenager with a strong body as well as many virtues, such as sincerity, self-esteem, tolerance. In this way, the image of brave hero or intelligent explorer can be activated. Besides, the beautiful imagination of the final destination appears continuously to encourage people to accept Brexit more willingly.

2) Punishment and Contribution

David Cameron advocated that Britain should play a committed and active part within the EU and the “sensible choice” of leaving will be published, causing a widespread aftermath of less competitiveness, less growth and fewer jobs. What’s more, once the negotiation with the EU starts, there is no return ticket to go back, which signifies that the punishments will not end and the sufferings will continue. As a result, David Cameron requires to correct the misbehavior as soon as possible, so as to ensure the benefits within the EU.

However, Theresa May advocates that Britain is strong enough. Instead of seeking helps endlessly from the EU, it is time for Britain to take the chance of Brexit to make more contributions to the world. In the frame of voyage, the strengths of Britain have been clearly listed and compared to the rich goods, such as the high-skilled intelligence capabilities, the leading nuclear power, the permanent set on the United Nations Security Council, and the superior armed force against terrorism and crimes. Though many challenges exists during the process, Theresa May insists that the potential failure should not be the reason for Britain to stop changing. Only keep trying, can Britain learn from the errors and grows.

3) Group empathy and Personal liability

David Cameron firmly believed that unity within the EU should be protected by no means. Especially by reviewing the past hard times, the mutual endeavors to fight against the enemies and the strong feeling of brotherhood cultivated between different countries help to evoke a great empathy. Besides, considering the difficulty in establishing the EU as well as the great efficiency of trading with each other within the Single Market, the hardship for Britain to grow as another EU seems is beyond expectation. That is why Cameron hasn’t set Brexit as a priority in the issues with the EU, but an “exit” in case of the collapse of the EU.

Theresa May, however, explains that although the EU provides great convenience, the dream of Britain to become stronger, fairer, and more global can only be realized by an absolute leave with no reservation of any membership within the EU. She suggests that Britain should take pride in shaking off the restrictions and exploring more space and freedom for self-development, rather than keeping static within the group.

6. Conclusion

From the above analysis, the different framing strategies adopted by David Cameron and Theresa May can be clearly presented. In the process of constructing the surface frames, a general division of the attitudes toward Brexit, either soft or hard, can be generally recognized by collecting the non-metaphorical words with high frequency in both speeches. With more classification of the metaphorical expressions, the frames of person, race, building, journey, voyage, war and business are constructed, which enrich the expressions to a much degree and make the image of Britain more vivid. Though comparisons, what deserves attention is that though the frames of person, race, and building are shared by both speeches, the meanings expressed about Britain and Breixt are quite different and even opposite to each other. David Cameron attempts to make Britain well-protected within the EU. However, Theresa May tends to drag Britain out of the comfortable zone to meet more adventures. Especially with the introduction of the different frames of journey, voyage, war and business, it seems more obvious about the hesitation of David Cameron and the decisiveness of Theresa May.

In the deep frames, how do different values separate with each other and contribute to the construction of the frames can be revealed. It is not difficult to find that David Cameron adopts fixed model, for he intends to discourage people’s enthusiasm of Brexit, and sees Brexit a mistake which needs to be corrected in case of causing the terrifying aftermaths. He also evoked more empathy of the public to review the good old days within the EU. Differently, Theresa May adopts growth model. She encourages people to search for a big dream by using more positive images, and emphasizes a necessity to shift from a group-oriented success to the individual development and its role played in the whole world.

Generally, the road to Brexit proves arduous and long, which makes allowance for many possibilities in the near future. By analyzing and comparing different attitudes held towards Brexit, this study not just stays in the surface, but digs further into the strategies of constructing or even reconstructing the frames. In this way, the application of frames will be enriched to some degree, and it might also be useful for the public to weigh the different values and vote for the wise.

Cite this paper

Yang, K. Y. (2018). A Comparative Analysis of the Two Different Framing Strategies of Brexit: Exemplified by the Speeches of David Cameron and Theresa May. Open Journal of Modern Linguistics, 8, 71-86.


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4Refers to the easier, more general metaphors which originated from our daily lives, and have been used in most parts of the world, such as MORE IS UP, LESS IS DOWN,AFFECTION IS WARMTH and the other primary metaphors, little cultural differences included.